After four days of seemingly every break going against them, the Tacoma Rainiers caught some good fortune on Sunday.
Tacoma scored three runs on wild pitches and turned a strange double play, helping the team to a much-needed 4-3 win over the Reno Aces.
After four consecutive losses in Reno, Tacoma made some headway toward clinching the PCL’s Pacific-North division title. The Rainiers have a 3 ½ game lead over Reno, and both teams have eight games remaining. Tacoma’s magic number is five.
The Rainiers’ good fortune started in the bottom of the first inning after Ildemaro Vargas and Socrates Brito reached base.
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With Reno’s No. 3 hitter, Mitch Haniger, at the plate, Tacoma starter Cody Martin spiked a pitch outside in the dirt. Catcher Jesus Sucre blocked the pitch, controlled the ball, looked toward second base and saw both Vargas and Brito running toward the base from opposite directions. Sucre threw to second and the Rainiers tagged out both runners for a double play.
“Unconventional, but that was a big double play,” said Tacoma manager Pat Listach. “Sucre made a heck of a pick in the dirt, barehanded it and threw down.”
Unconventional describes how Tacoma took the lead in the third inning. Facing Reno starter Anthony Banda, Tacoma loaded the bases for Stefen Romero.
Romero watched a wild pitch sail by, allowing one run to score. He swung and missed at the next pitch. Then Banda threw two more wild pitches, allowing the other two runners to score, and Tacoma led 3-0.
“Romero had a chance to drive in four runs, and he ended up walking and not driving in any,” Listach said. “First time I can remember seeing three runs scoring on three wild pitches in one at-bat.”
Martin lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up one run and striking out seven. He was pulled after throwing 100 pitches — and Listach used five relievers to cover the final 3 2/3 innings.
“We used everybody,” said Listach. “It’s getting late in the season and you do everything you can to win a game.”
Kevin Munson and Paul Fry got out of the sixth inning, Tony Zych worked a perfect seventh, Kraig Sitton got an out in the eighth, and Andrew Kittredge recorded a save with the final five outs.
Kittredge allowed a two-run homer to Dan Rohlfing with one out in the ninth. But with the potential tying run on base, he struck out Brito and Haniger to end the game.
Tacoma finished its road schedule with a record of 35-36, and plays its final eight games at home, where it is 41-23. … Reno finishes on the road, with four games at Sacramento and four at Tacoma. … Outfielder Nori Aoki, who was optioned from the Mariners to Tacoma on Saturday, is expected to join the team Monday.
The Rainiers begin an eight-game homestand, which ends the regular season, at 7:05 p.m. Monday against the Fresno Grizzlies. Tacoma will start right-hander Zach Lee (0-7, 7.04 ERA) against Fresno right-hander Brady Rodgers (12-4, 2.91).
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.